The fascination we all have with dinosaurs comes from the mystery and relative little information we have about them. The movie Jurassic Park and its sequels fascinated millions partly because they are such fun movies but also because they speculate what it would be like to actually see dinosaurs up close and in person. We can thank paleontologists for providing such detailed information about what dinosaurs looked like that we have been able to take those images and use our imaginations about them.
Certainly, children have all the imaginations they need to create games and pictures using dinosaurs. And while Barney or The Flintstones cartoon show certainly are not accurate depictions of dinosaurs, these entertainment uses of these beasts that are long gone entice the young and keep dinosaurs a big part of culture. This has to be gratifying to paleontologists and archeologists who found the fossils and used their scientific training to give us visual concepts of what dinosaurs must have looked like that has spawned so much fascination .
It has to be an amazing moment when a rookie paleontologist comes across his or her first massive brontosaurus fossil being unearthed in some remote location around the world. The brontosaurus is a great example of a dinosaur who is so dramatically different than anything we have walking around on earth today that when we see a model of one at the science museum, we just gasp at the amazing size of these beasts. In some ways, dinosaurs almost seem like space alien creatures that once populated the earth. The brontosaurus, for example, if the re-creations scientists have done of them is accurate, was 80 feet long and weighed between 30 and 40 tons.
Of course, there are no photographs or pictures of an actual brontosaurus from the period of time millions of years ago when they ruled the earth. The task of “rebuilding” the brontosaurus or other dinosaurs using no more than fossilized bones that we get from archeological discoveries is what makes the science of paleontology so amazing. When scientists discovered rib bones so huge that it took many men to carry them and they were able to put together from fossils the feet of these massive beasts and all the other bones that were found in fossil form, they could lay out those bones and come up with a pretty accurate speculation of what the dinosaurs looked like and how they lived.
We are fortunate that so much of how the process of discovering, excavating and studying fossils is understandable to the rest of us. And while it takes years of training and decades of experience to be qualified to actually study and handle real dinosaur fossils, we all can relive in our imaginations what paleontologists put into this important work by becoming more educated about fossil research. That education will only make us more knowledgeable and more fascinated by these species of massive reptiles that ruled the earth so long ago.